The Politics of Life: Michel Foucault and the Biopolitics of Modernity

The Politics of Life: Michel Foucault and the Biopolitics of Modernity

Conference at IASPIS, Sep 3-5
Maria Skolgata 83, 2nd floor, Stockholm

This symposium is arranged by the Institution of Culture and Communication
at Södertörn University, Campus Flemingsberg, and The International Artists
Studio Program in Stockholm (IASPIS).

Ever since the concepts of “biopolitics” and “biopower” appeared in the first volume of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality in 1976, they have continued to provoke responses. In 1976 Foucault picks up themes already developed in Discipline and Punish, and describes a shift in the structure of power that takes us from the epoch of sovereignty, in which the right of the ruler is to take life or let live, to the modern conception of power as a way to enhance, render productive, compose, maximize, and administer life. In some respects this is an undeniable progress toward a more “humane” world, but, as Foucault underlines, it also leads to a biological conception of politics. To exterminate the enemy, to expel the degenerate, the enemy of the people or the class from the social body in order to attain purity—all of this will become possible precisely because the body politic comes to be perceived as a living entity that must be attended to, and not just a source of disturbances that must be repressed.

Foucault’s research, which soon came to graft the concept of biopolitics onto the idea of a modern form of “governmentality”, has been a major source of inspiration for philosophy, political science and gender studies, as well as in bioethics and analyses of security apparatuses and techniques of surveillance. Foucault’s ideas have been critically extended in the highly diverse ways, often taking them far beyond their initial formulations—all of which indicate the extent to which thinking with, through, beyond and perhaps also against the questions posed by Foucault has proved to be a highly fertile ground for research.

In this way, the conference takes its point of departure in the work of Foucault, but with the intention of assessing the applicability of his thought to the present, which undoubtedly also means to envisage the possibility of different futures.

Keynote speakers: Thomas Lemke, Johanna Oksala, Maurizio Lazzarato,
Catherine Mills, Julian Reid, Vikki Bell, and Sven-Olov Wallenstein

For a detailed program, see the homepage of the philosophy department:[...]

Sven-Olov Wallenstein: sven-olov.wallenstein(at), or

The conference is free of charge, but seating is limited, so we recommend
pre-booking. Send mail to: jakob.nilsson(at)